tv The Chris Matthews Show NBC November 20, 2011 11:00am-11:30am EST
>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> ask not what your country can do for you. >> tear down this wall. >> i can hear you. >> the time for change has come. chris: the championship season. mitt romney still has to be nominated but the obama and romney teams are looking pafflet cain and newt to the death struggle. outrage at penn state, paterno has been fired and so has the university president. where will the focus turn next? will big sports schools do anything for a win? finally, like it was yesterday. we've never gotten over it. that friday president kennedy was killed. we remember where we were. deep in our souls, many of us are still there.
i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. with us today, h.d. net's dan rather. bloomberg's lizzie o'leary. "the new york times'" helene cooper. and new york magazine's john heilemann. first up, there's plenty of passing chatter about newt gingrich and herman cain. and even rick perry but none of them seems to stand a serious chance of beating mitt romney for the republican nomination. so maybe no surprise that naseem and president obama already are -- romney and president obama are already sparring with each other. romney is trying to make the obama team nervous by calling them nervous. >> mitt romney. >> governor romney. >> governor romney. >> mitt romney. >> governor romney. >> didn't know were you a spokesperson for mitt romney. chris: those romney madmen who he cooked up those ads, obsession. the obama crowd may not be obsessed at least not yet but they're definitely already
focused on romney. and they confess they're disappointed that romney's emerging from the primaries so unbloodied. by his opponents. >> i don't know that his positions have been scrutinized that carefully. i know governor perry has made some halting efforts to do that in these debates. but he hasn't exactly got -- gotten the gun out of the holster. chris: rough talk. gun out of the holster. but they seem to be bugged and you heard it from axelrod talking to reporters that nobody has done any damage to romney in all these fights. >> well, give romney credit and his campaign credit. he took a page from the richard nixon book from 1968. limits his access to the press. so you have to give romney a lot of credit. i think the obama people are right to be concerned about it. i am not of the group that says romney has this tied up yet. i recognize most people think he is the nominee. and for me, still a little early. and don't underestimate gingrich. chris: hold that thought.
let me ask you about the white house. you cover obama and his political team. are they -- let's see see, the word obsessed, are they afraid romney might grab the suburbs around the big cities and grash the reagan republican -- grab the reagan republican or reagan democrats? >> mitt romney is the candidate that the white house least wants to run against. they would love to get rick perry. they would love even to get newt gingrich. that said, they're quick to say, you know, not a single vote has been cast yet and this is a guy in a can't seem to get above 30%. chris: you're being generous. >> i think very generous. chris: usually around 23%. >> so there's this feeling that within the republican party, the white house people are always pointing to make the comparison all the time about john mccain. john mccain didn't seem to excite the republican base, either. and you see where in a got him. -- where that got him. and whether that's tough talk is a different story. they don't want to run against romney but they think he's not very exciting and they think that when push comes to shove, barack obama when he wants to
can turn it on and be a fantastic campaigner. and they think that mano e mano can take him. chris: let's talk about why they're attacking him now. november. before thanksgiving. and they're already turning their hoses onto romney. why now, a year ahead? usually you save -- snore do you? -- or do you? >> there's a chance they can damage naseem and represent some of the weaker republicans win and why not play that card? the more important thing is they have been very careful students in the obama re-election campaign and the white house of previous incumbent presidents and how they've won. and what they've figured out, key insight by a political director from bill clinton in 1996 is that elections are won between october and march, coming into the general election year. you don't actually win after labor day. you win by gaining momentum in the polls and by framing things up in the proper way. so clinton-dole in 1996 is a classic example. you will remember the way in which they ran against the dole-gingrich congress.
on the presumption that dole would be the nominee. and they twinned him to newt gingrich. framed him as being much more of an ideological conservative than he actually was. and that stuck. when you get the momentum going your way at that point, you can carry forward all the way to november. chris: let's try to interpret this. it seems like you can look at some facts. one is this is remarkable. everybody nights to get on sunday television. meet the press, other shows. here's romney avoiding them like the plague. he hasn't done a sunday show and they're clamoring to get him. has that hurt them where 1968 nixon lost his momentum and hits from the press and is that why he stuck into the low 20's? >> they're unrelated. that's ideological. and why wouldn't you go out there? why wouldn't you subject parts of your record to scrutiny? i think if you're the romney campaign, you look at economic data. you understand that he can sound masterful and like a technocrat. talking about points on the economy. and for now, that's fine.
chris: let's get out of our rut here about assuming romney is going to be the nominee because dan raised an interesting point about newt. wouldn't it bug you, and i'm not going to be too much in the personalities here but newt gingrich of course, he's been flew a career. he was speaker. house. he did get pushed out and he was reprimanded and he has been married three times and a party that doesn't look kindly on that serial marriages. and yet he's running even. roughly with mitt romney. doesn't mitt romney, doesn't that bother him psychologically to know that newt with all his badge is overtaking him -- baggage is overtaking him? >> i would be suicidal if that were the case, does it bother me. does it bother mitt romney? the romney campaign's view on this is that this ceiling how romney can't break through 25% in national polls for a year they believe that's not a real ceiling and people have not gotten to the time when it's time to pick a president and when they get to that time you will see romney break through that ceiling. that's a theory. we don't know if it's true or not but they've seen other
candidates rise and fall and newt on his second rise. they would rather be dealing with newt gingrich's rise right now than rick perry's. chris: hot air balloon is a better comparison. >> whether helium or hot air. i don't know which. but rick perry has money. rick perry rising would be a problem. newt gingrich rising right now, not a problem. chris: because of his history. let's ask about the president and his concern about solidifying his center-left and left. he's a center-left politician i believe. he has to carry the left in a general election. what's the wall street statement such as it is say about his ability to excite his far left and left base? >> he's got to -- a real left problem there and they're very much aware of that. but they believe that this election is going to be won in the center. they think the left has nowhere to go. chris: box the ears of mitt romney they can win. hit him hard. >> yes. chris: dan, let me ask yoyou about the third party. we've watched primary and caucus campaigns where one candidate is the frontrunner or the second guy or the second one barks the frontrunner and
both bashes each other and some third person wins the primary because they haven't been bashed. haven't they begun to spar each other? romney going after obama, obama going after romney, have they created a big space for a third party? >> yes, they have. for a third party, independent candidate. and i wouldn't be surprised as we go into the spring that some group with some candidate tries to take advantage of that very thing. i'm not saying that they will be successful. but its ideal, set up for a third party, independent candidate to come in. now, from where that candidate comes makes a big difference. it comes from the center left or the left. president obama, comes from the center right to the right, big trouble for the republicans. chris: let's take a look at the matthews meter which is on that-minute. 12 of our regulars including helene and john. if there's a third party candidate, could he or she decide the election? meaning the spoiler? 10 say yes. two say no.
john, you're with the 10. what are they worrying about -- are the people in the white house you cover worried about a third party? on the left? >> look at history. look at what happened with bush-gore in 2000. a lot of people still believe that ralph nader hadn't been on the ballot, there's no question if you have a third party particularly if it's on the left that's going to be a huge, huge, huge lose-lose for barack obama. >> it doesn't have to be on the left. you remember jimmy carter. john anderson was not -- in the middle. the third party candidates when you're an incumbent are bad. chris: because they give a voter a chance to avoid making a decision. >> and that referendum framework, it gives you another option, and that will be in this race, which is going to be so close, so close. chris: who's coming? do you know? >> well -- chris: who wants to run? >> i really have a hard time. thlings the problem is figuring out who this person is. if could you get someone who had half of colin powell's foreign policy credentials and
half of mike bloomberg's money and who is half as crazy as ross perot, you would have a great candidate. i don't know who that person is. chris: lizzi. >> we've been racking our heads. reporters like talking about a third party candidate and it makes us smart and pick through people who we think are -- but nobody here has a name on their list. >> let's remember the presidential election of 1992. ross perot got almost 19%. almost 19% of the vote in the 1992 presidential election. and he was the leading candidate before he went wacko -- chris: certifiable. he said the north koreans were running across his front lawn. >> the frontrunner through much of the summer. and i don't think bill clinton would have won that race if perot had not been in it. chris: there is a protest mood out there where people may not want to choose between obama and mitt romney. they would rather say i voted for john anderson. i voted -- maybe not petraeus but somebody like that. before we break another zast
russ week for herman cain with that interminable pause over the libya question. and that pause followed rick perry deeply fatal pause in the g.o.p. debate last week. saturday night live mixed empathy and ridicule. >> the three departments i cut, education, the commerce -- trying to think. but my brain is just going -- [laughter] it is hot. yeah. this jacket, get out of it real quick. come here. come here, come here. >> it's ok. >> it's all right. not going to be president, am i? >> no, you're not. [laughter] chris: 25 years ago, s.n.l. picked on another politician's pauses. the premise was that ronald reagan needed back stage prompting. >> if you're stumped for an answer, i'll talk into the mic and it will be transmitted directly into the receiver. and so -- >> just like radio.
[laughter] ladies and gentlemen of the press, excuse me. [laughter] i knew that. i was just taking a dramatic pause. i'm not stupid. thank you. >> in light of recent events, you feel the secret arms deal to iran was a mistake? >> i would like to answer that with a definitive -- no -- no! thank you. >> mr. president -- >> not now. >> 1 adam 12. 1 adam 12. >> mr. president, we're getting some interference on that frequency. >> that was not me. >> mr. president, why don't you admit the arms deal was a
mistake? >> well, i'm glad you asked that because this is one in a i'm ready for -- one that i'm ready for. oh, kareem, passes to magic. swish. that's two points. bingo. chris: when we come back, what does our group of political experts think about the crushing disappointment at penn state? plus scoops and predictions from the notebooks of these top reporters. we'll be right back. >> "the chris matthews show" is brought to you by charles schwab. get the help your money deserves. talk to chuck. call 1-800-4-squab or go to schwab.com today.
>> i ask for the support of the entire penn state community to work together to reorient our culture. never again should anyone at penn state regardless of their position feel scared to do the right thing. chris: you know, everybody like me and you, most men and women both get up sunday mornings and see how their college did on football the day before or basketball. wins are what matter. not how you won, not how dirty the game was or how many injuries, who won? is that obsession what leads to this protecting of coaches and everybody else on the dirt? >> we certainly have -- and a huge sports fan, we have a sickness around sports in america and people are willing to forgive all kinds of things of sports and athletes. the question of child sexual abuse is something -- chris: rape in this case. >> it doesn't happen that much but it happens in a lot of different kinds of places. we know about the church. i covered a child sex abuse case in a boy choir school in princeton.
through the line in all these cases we talk about how much we care about kids. but what adults really care about is their own prestige, their own privilege, their money, whatever it is. and they will always systematically -- chris: the question -- >> a lot of money was on the line here. penn state football makes $70 million a year. makes a lot of money. like the rest of society, money figures very heavily in wanting to protect the institution. look, the ultimate protection of the institution, a very big step would have been to cancel the rest of the football season. it wasn't even on the table. chris: the school itself. >> say listen, this is serious. this is bigger than football. they didn't do it. >> i have to say -- i was a college athlete. i don't think this is just a sports thing. this is a business. it's a multimillion dollar a year business. and this is about this -- chris: why did paterno protect sandusky? he's a personal protection. >> yes, these are personal protections but they're bound up in identity and the larger identity of penn state. there was a scathing piece in
"the washington post" that everybody should read by a guy named thomas, 31, an army veteran from the happy valley. a second mile kid. and he said this generation has failed us. over and over and over again. not just at penn state and not just in the church. he cited congress, and i think the disgust with now an institution protects itself. chris: helene, last word. >> once you started down the road of not alerting the authorities, then it all gets tied up into what did you know, when did you know it? and that's when people start not wanting to say anything. if they had come out with this right away and dumped jerry sandusky, we would not be sitting here having any of this conversation. and it wouldn't be about -- chris: the cover-up you're incriminating. >> when you cover up -- chris: so much like watergate. >> that raises the question, what is still being covered up? i think there's a lot more to the story. chris: when we come back scoops
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>> tell me something i don't know is brought to you by charles schwab. let's talk about the personal attention you and your money deserve. talk to chuck. chris: welcome back. dan, tell me something i don't know. >> we can learn a lot from finland and singapore who lead in international testing. in singapore, class size is 40. students in class. we in this country the idea of the smaller the class the better. how does singapore do it? in finland, every elementary
school in every grade, every hour gives 15 minutes on the hour of recess. many of our schools don't do recess anymore at all. >> the economy is actually getting better. probably no one was noticing in the labor -- we're still going to get the big jobs report. but the average workweek is getting longer. that is a hugely good sign. that is a precursor to hiring. a little bit. chris: can we get to 8.5? >> no. >> lizzi stole mine by the way. but i have a backup. chris: you are a pro. you got a spare tire in the back. >> i got a spare tire. washington, d.c., remains the best feeding ground on the diplomatic circuit. the italian ambassador to washington just is -- just been announced as a new foreign minister for italy. for the new italian government. >> the obama campaign would much rather run against rick perry than mitt romney. that's true. but they have enjoyed the way that mitt romney has destroyed rick perry on particularly the
issue of immigration. he has run to the right of rick perry on immigration and think romney will have trouble winning latino votes that you norwood to win. chris: he has kissed up colorado and nevada and new mexico. >> very hard. and the obama campaign actually and obama felt vulnerable on immigration and feels a lot better. chris: the plan of winning the western states. our big question this week, november 22, 196 3. dan rather was there. what was it like? be right back.
chris: welcome back. november 22, 1963. dan rather was there. >> we just have a report from our correspondent, dan rather, in dallas. that he has confirmed that president kennedy is dead. there's still no official confirmation of this. however, the report from our correspondent, dan rather, in dallas, texas. chris: so dan, our big question this week, a tragic one. how did you get that tragic word? >> i started as a reporter, while i was working the police
beat in houston, texas, a lot of hoom sides. -- of homicides. we had the board of the hospital who said that the president was dead. i called the hospital right away, quickly, got through. a priest, a doctor, we had that information. i said to myself, if i'm working the police beat in houston, texas, we're looking at a dead man. and i told our people in new york then, we would like to go with it. they said to me, do you think he's dead? i said yes. chris: the next day. >> saturday was all concentrated on lee harvey oswald and early sunday morning, oswald was shot by jack ruby. so interest turned to ruby. and was there a conspiracy? this is something larger than just -- and we know that president johnson became president and very much concerned that maybe it was the russians or who knows? if you were working the story you had to be focused on the story. i don't have time for my emotionings. >> i don't think any of us who
lived through that, whether in college or on this team, have ever gotten it out of our hearts. it's always like yesterday morning to me. it lives there in our heads and hearts. thank you, dan, for being here always. dan rather, lizzie o'leary, helene cooper and john heilemann. and before we go, a personal note about my new book "jack kennedy, elusive hero," arrives on "the new york times" best seller list at number three. my personal look at the leader and we must never let the death obscure or shadow the triumphant victory of his life. and that's the show. thanks for watching. happy thanksgiving, everybody. we'll see you back here next happy thanksgiving, everybody. we'll see you back here next week.